According to a report released earlier this month by the Point-in-Time Survey–conducted by the National Alliance to end homelessness–a Washington DC think tank–noted that on one cold January night earlier this year, more than 10,000 people were homeless–and many of them were in Newark.

Monarch Housing Associates in Cranford—a suburb of Newark– reported that the Garden State has continued to see an increase in homeless people. Among other things, the advocacy group offers initiatives and programs to combat homelessness. Since 2019 the state has seen a rise of nearly 35 percent in people without permanent or secure housing.

While there are those who argue that the recent increase in homelessness and associated problems can be traced back to the conclusion of COVID-19 relief measures and the resulting aftermath of the Pandemic, such as homeowners and renters who struggled to cover their mortgage and rental payments for months due to temporary extension provided by state and federal programs.

In a previous interview, Taissa Kelly, the CEO of Monarch Associates, said community investment in permanent housing is a viable means to ending homelessness. “Across the state and the country, we are starting to see a lot more communities start to pivot towards an investment in housing so that there is an exit out of homelessness,” Kelly said. “It’s not an immediate fix,” Kelly added that African Americans and people of color are more likely to experience chronic homelessness than any other ethnic group.

For example, while African Americans comprise about 12 percent of the state’s population, 47 percent of the homeless population are POC (People of Color). Essex County, the third largest county in the state and includes the city of Newark, has the highest percentage of homeless individuals in the state.

Changes in Newark 

Echoing similar sentiment, late last year, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka outlined a comprehensive initiative to combat homelessness in the Brick City. In an Op-Ed piece and several subsequent interviews, Baraka highlighted the report released by his office earlier this year.

Mayor Baraka said more than one-third of the estimated 300,000 Newark residents were experiencing prolonged homelessness, chronic medical conditions, or both. He added that the city’s failed efforts to provide Newarkers with secure and long-term housing show a desperate and immediate need for humanity.

“There is no excuse for the richest country in the world to have any residents living hand to mouth on the streets,” he said. Baraka highlighted the status of his three-point plan during a recent Town Hall event by the NJ Chamber/African American Chamber in Iselin. He said outreach efforts included creating a variety and implementing multiple access to support services. And access to affordable housing options and rental subsidy housing vouchers and urging landlords to participate in government programs to increase available apartments for people experiencing homelessness.

“We opened Miller Street Pathways to Housing Center in February 2021 and will continue to create low-barrier housing, including single-room occupancy units,” he said. Baraka added that solving the homelessness issue must be a joint effort.

“Our role is to work collaboratively with the organizations that do operate shelters and to participate with the State, County, HUD Housing Authority and others,” he said

Affordable Housing Alternatives

 Home sharing is an organization that provides a service for people who want to share their homes for economic, service, or companionship reasons or who need assistance securing affordable housing. 

The Bridgewater-based nonprofit provides alternative housing options for seven counties in New Jersey–including Middlesex, Morris, and Union counties. It is one of more than a dozen home-sharing organizations across the country. Home sharing may be a viable alternative to homelessness due to spiraling rents, out-of-control interest rates, and mortgage payments.   

“Like anywhere else, there’s more demand than supply,” said Steven Nagel, executive director of HomeSharing Inc. “We’re looking for people who are willing to open their homes,” Nagel said matching home providers with home seekers is intense, including interviews, background checks, and other screening requirements. “We want to make sure the providers and the seekers and residents are comfortable with each other and the accommodations ,” he said.                           

10 Facts About Homelessness in the United States

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